Posts tagged workplace culture
The Convivial Workplace: What Your Office Could Look Like In 2035

In 20 years, the typical workplace may look less like “The Office” and more like your own living room.

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Today’s offices are noticeably different from a decade ago. Many companies have jettisoned corner offices and tightly packed cubicles in favor of open floor plans. At the same time, more employees are choosing to work from home. But both trends have limitations: The former has been shown to hinder workplace productivity, while the latter can stifle collaboration.

It’s up to the office of the future to fix these issues, says Steve Gale, London head of workplace strategy at M Moser Associates, a Hong Kong-based architecture firm specializing in designing and building offices for global businesses. Gale has a solution he calls the “convivial workplace,” an office that promotes social interaction between employees. When workers socialize, Gale told The Huffington Post, they begin to swap ideas and develop a greater sense of shared purpose.

“The only reason left for going in to work is to interact with other people,” said Gale, pointing out that technology gives most office workers access to the tools they need to do their job from the comfort of home. “But people need to [meet face to face] for a multitude of reasons. And that, I think, is one of the biggest issues we need to address over the next 20 years.”

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Jeanne Meister, a workplace expert and co-author of a book on corporate innovations, notes that progressive tech companies like Google and Facebook use workspaces as a way to establish a corporate identity, more than as a place to get work done. “Space needs to communicate the culture as a way to attract the right employee,” she told HuffPost, adding that flexible working conditions are a key determining factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

“At the end of the day, millennials don’t want to go to a place to do work. They are more interested in having an experience.” said Meister, who envisions a future office space that resembles a living room or even a bar.

“When you want to do the boring stuff like making phone calls, you can do that anywhere,“ Gale said. “But businesses will say, ‘Guys when you come to work, wouldn’t it be nice if you really looked forward to it? And you knew it was going to be entertaining, stimulating, engaging?’”

Experts we spoke to agreed that workplace amenities such as in-house cooks, gyms and health care will become more important than ever. But while Facebook and other companies may already provide some of these perks, few have truly adopted the full change in perspective that Meister and Gale expect to see in the coming years. 

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For example, Gale pointed out, most offices already have common areas where employees can socialize. “But it hasn’t got the ambience that’s actually truly social,” he said. “It’s a wipe-down place that’s a bit echoey. People will use it if there’s nowhere else to go, but it’s not part and parcel of your daily work routine. That’s the shift in the center of gravity to a different way of thinking and working.”

Whatever the workplace of the future turns out to be, it sounds like it’ll be an improvement. Twenty years from now, workers may reflect on the offices of 2015 as “dark satanic mills,” Gale said. “There’s no doubt about it. [They’ll say] ‘did you actually get up in the morning, commute for an hour and half, sit there and then go home again? You’re nuts!’” he added.

“Everyone wants to be open and wants to be collaborative, but when you really do the research, a lot of workers are struggling with being effective and productive in totally open workspaces,” said Meister, digging at modern-day office setups. “How do you enable collaboration without sacrificing a worker’s ability to really focus on the job at hand?”

Originally published on The Huffington Post, February 2015.

It's Time to Stop the War Against the Open Office

by Blake Zalcberg

It’s no longer fashionable to hate the cubicle. The hot new trend is to bash the open office.

It seems like every week there’s a new thinkpiece arguing that the trend towards more open- office layouts in American businesses is bad. Not just bad. Terrible. Literally, the worst thing ever.

The headlines tell the story: “The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.” “Why the open-concept office trend needs to die.” “The dark side of open offices.” “The open office trap.”

We’re told that open offices cause distractions, reduce productivity, irritate introverts and maybe even spread the flu and other germs.

Some of this criticism is grounded in genuine concerns. But at this point, it feels like a lot of these pieces are not accurately describing the ideas behind the open-office movement. Yes, there are bad examples of open offices: free-for-alls with no privacy and no protection against noise and nosy coworkers. But as someone once sort-of wrote, every unhappy office is unhappy in its own way. There are also cubicle farms where workers feel isolated, flexible workspaces with uncomfortable chairs, and even corner offices that feel cold and uninviting.

The critics are right about one thing: the open office is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every workplace. Nothing is. Every industry, every company and every department has its own needs and deserves an office design that works for it.

Consider human resources. No one thinks that the people who advise staffers on delicate personal situations should do so while sitting in a wide-open space.

At the same time, creative types working on a group project shouldn’t be tucked away in quiet rooms where they never interact with each other.

The open office works best when it involves small- to medium-sized groups of people who frequently collaborate on projects that require creative thinking.

But no office should be 100 percent open–or closed for that matter. There’s always going to be a need for a private office where business deals and personnel matters can be discussed or a conference room where a small group can hash out a new strategy or even a cafeteria table where a couple coworkers can informally trade ideas over tuna sandwiches.

The truly effective modern workplace isn’t just a mindless off-the-shelf floorplan based on whatever the hot trend of the moment is. It’s tailored to the needs of that office’s employees. With so many of today’s workers engaged in creative work, that means open offices where people can trade ideas, easily gather in spontaneous group meetings and tell at a glance which of their coworkers are available.

An open office also requires a different office style.

People who don’t want to be bothered right now should be comfortable putting on headphones without their coworkers taking offense. Companies should also create some flexible spaces where people can go when they need more privacy. And managers should accept that workers may need to sometimes goof off on the Internet to recharge their brain.

The open office isn’t for everyone. Some people may never want to work in one. Some businesses may be better with a more traditional layout. And some examples of open offices are no doubt poorly designed and implemented.

What businesses and organizations alike should consider is the idea of a modular office with versatile furniture. An office should be designed in a way that you can create a certain layout when you need it. Sometimes privacy is necessary, but there are times when having an open-office layout that fosters collaboration makes sense.

Office design isn’t an all or nothing. Under one roof a company can have some traditional offices, a few cubicles, a conference room, and some open-office space where its employees can work collaboratively. It doesn’t have to choose an open-office plan or not. It doesn’t have to decide to have a traditional office design or not.

But bashing the open office is getting a little too easy. It’s not destroying the workplace or trapping America’s workers on the dark side, and it doesn’t need to die.

Originally published on The Huffington Post, February 2015.

5 Tips for Working in a Shared Office Space

Image: IT Pro Portal

In the tech sector, where telecommuting is rampant and inexpensive office space is not, working from co-working spaces has become a viable and affordable option. The typical co-working space is an open-plan office space that allows its members to work in a more professional environment than their garages or bedrooms.

Think of a co-working space as a big, open office, filled with dozens of different companies, all under one roof. Picture long tables full of laptops and busy workers tapping away or making phone calls – almost like what you’d see at some coffee shops, but with more resources for getting work done, and less hissing from cappuccino machines.

To work effectively from a co-working space, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible. So get yourself organized with these five tips.

1. Always bring headphones and chargers

When I asked for tips on staying productive in a co-working space, practically everyone said they bring headphones. Go one step further and buy an extra set of headphones you can always keep in your laptop bag. That way, you’ll never forget them.

Some people use standard earbuds to play music or talk radio, while others invest in more expensive noise-cancelling headphones for a truly quiet experience. If you intend to play music or other audio, make sure the volume is low enough that no one around you can hear it.

In addition to carrying headphones, you must keep charging cords and cables for all your devices on you at all times. If you’re prone to forgetting them and leaving them at home, buy back-up cords and leave them in your bag.

2. If you forget something, ask

If you do forget something essential, such as a phone charger, set of headphones, or HDMI cable, ask someone who works at the co-working space if he or she has one that you can borrow. Some co-working spaces, such as WeWork (which has locations across the US, and one in London) may even have more unexpected resources. Ben Kessler, Director of Marketing & Communications at WeWork says community managers typically have a stock of disposable toothbrushes, mouthwash, and even sewing kits.

3. Book meeting rooms for quiet time early and late in the day

Martha Smith, head of social media for the online shopping and swapping site Swapdom.com, works from an open-plan co-working space that she sometimes finds distracting. When she needs to focus on projects that require a lot of concentration, she makes use of the conference rooms and meeting rooms, but she tries to only reserve blocks of time at the very beginning and end of the day, when fewer people need them.

4. Use temporary, private spaces when you don’t need a full membership

Sometimes even a private meeting room isn’t private enough to get your work done, depending on what your work is. For example, actors need a space to rehearse where they can speak out loud – and they might only need a space for two hours every so often rather than all day, five days a week. Julien Smith founded a company called Breather that rents small, private, office-like spaces to individuals who need them for as little as 30 minutes. Breather’s locations cover New York and Montreal, with offices in more cities, including San Francisco, said to be coming soon.

5. Treat common areas like sacred spaces

Co-working environments almost always have their own bathrooms and kitchenette or break room. In both co-working spaces and more traditional office settings, people are very sensitive about the condition of these shared spaces, so tread lightly. Scrupulously clean up after yourself. Never leave anything in the sink (ever), and report problems like a lack of soap in the dispensers immediately.

Originally published on IT Pro Portal, April 28, 2013.

(Re)Designing the Workplace, Strategically

imageAs stated by Gina Berndt, Principal at Perkins + Will, in an IIDA Perspective issue, “people and an organization’s culture trump the physical environment. The environment can reinforce culture, but it can’t create it.” This idea lies at the root of effective workplace strategy, which must “encompass an organization’s goals and values.”

Work Design Magazine recently published an article outlining the elements of strategic design. The first point of strategic design requires designers to evaluate the “corporate vision and values” of a company to determine how they can be manifested in the office environment. When the environment is designed to reinforce these ideas, the physical space has the potential to maximize performance and boost “employee engagement, loyalty, and innovation.”

To develop an effective workplace strategy, designers must gather cultural information, business objectives and note challenges the company faces “through observation, focus groups, surveys, and interviews.” This information will allow designers to “address the physical space and technology issues needed to achieve the desired employee behaviors… and greater business results.”

Once the strategy is determined, it must be reinforced among the employees who are “the key” of every organization. By sharing the company’s mission and strategy, employee engagement can be boosted and cultivated through an effective, well-designed workplace. This, In turn, “foster[s] a culture that makes it easier to attract and retain an engaged workforce.”

Asking the “right” questions will lead designers to helpful answers for crafting a “people-centered and strategic approach” to workplace design. As outlined by Work Design Magazine, these include:

- What are the organization’s goals and values?

- What can companies do to energize and engage the workforce?

- How can the workplace impact productivity?

- How can design innovations help improve quality of life and work?

- What does success look like?

Please check back next week for some common design challenges and their strategic workplace solutions, which can help boost employee happiness and output, thereby increasing business results.

A New Kind Of Grind

imageIn last month’s issue of Interiors & Sources, one feature explored the question about where America’s independent laborers will be working as their numbers rise from roughly 25-30% to almost 50% of the workforce in the next few years. According to the Intuit 2020 report, both large corporations and small businesses will develop larger networks of contingent workers, “minimizing fixed labor costs and expanding the available talent pool.”

As independent workers “begin to account for a large chunk of the American workforce, they’re going to need a place to work that isn’t Starbucks… Enter the co-working space.” Gone is the simple co-working space with the requisite power access; this has been replaced with “full floors providing all the amenities one could ask for.”

Apart from the physical attributes of new co-workings offices, the intangible benefits are significant. The collaborative community that is housed within modern co-working spaces has rendered these offices “open-sourced knowledge banks… based on collaboration rather than self-interested competition. On a purely psychological level, co-working spaces are healthier, more productive, and more in line with a healthy society than traditional work spaces.”

Interiors & Sources learned three valuable lessons from visiting Grind and Fueled Collective, two co-working office space brands. The first lesson is that “designing a successful office share is about designing a culture as much as a space.” This idea takes shape in the offices’ “highly designed professional” aesthetics, which not only create a pleasing work environment, but also serve to “curate a lifestyle.” As a result, members are stimulated to cement both professional and personal connections with one another.

The second lesson, “let your end-user be their own layout specialist,” promotes flexibility and choice among members. By eliminating walls, barriers, and partitions, co-working spaces like Grind encourage “collaboration [through] proximity.” The office therefore “does with furniture what most people do with walls,” by allowing members to adjust the space and layout of the office to suit their own needs.

Finally, lesson three warns designers that “the end-user is [their] new competition.” Business owners and end-users have developed such a strong voice and influence on their work environments that they are “sometimes the ones designing the space themselves.” With the “market’s growth potential being an exponential one,” these lessons could prove very valuable for designers and manufactures alike.

Part Two: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read “Part One” of our interview here.

DH: You’ve written about Google and mentioned them at the IIDA event. Innovant has seen three global RFPs from them in the last four years, which is an extreme example of a company undergoing rapid growth at rapid speed. If you can speak to this, how do such companies deal with the chaos of space planning, workplace strategy, and establishing standards under these conditions?

GL: As a journalist, I’ve never been on the inside of such hyper-growth, so I can’t really speak to that. However, I am fascinated that the biggest cloud company in the universe is massively investing in physical space. The second Googleplex (i.e. the Bayview Campus) and London headquarters are evidence that Google values proximity.

DH: Do you think your amazement that Google is investing so much money in physical space relates to the idea of “engineering serendipity” that you’ve promoted? Are they really able to think in those terms when they’re moving so quickly?

GL: Yes, I think so. One example is Google’s “people analytics” group. The company was prescient enough to create a dedicated data analysis group to study how people in the company actually work. Eventually, most companies will follow suit in molding functions of HR and facilities management to actually manage people and space together as a single unit — or at least they should.

Another responsibility of Google’s people analytics group is to manage social interactions among Googlers. There’s a reason the Googleplex has a bee-keeping club, and it’s not to keep employees at the ‘Plex 20 hours a day, which is how such programs are typically seen from the outside. Instead, they’re trying to figure out how to mix employees in unforeseen combinations that go beyond corporate roles and politics.

I’ve seen the chronic coffee machine and water cooler metaphors come up frequently in this context. When companies try to figure out how to increase workforce cohesion or introduce people, the solution is invariably adding or moving the coffee machine around. After all this time, we seem to have no better idea for bringing people together than to leave food lying around the office kitchen, as if you were trying to attract a pack of wild animals. I’d be curious to track the people analytics group’s results, which may suggest new social modes for bringing people together.

The third example is Campus London, where Google has stacked an incubator, an accelerator, and two floors of co-working beneath a satellite office on the top floor. Google’s presence is the draw for the entrepreneurs who work there, while the appeal for Google is this hive of activity beneath them they can keep tabs on, learn from, and hire from. I think this is an interesting lesson for companies — especially considering we talk all the time about the benefits of industry clusters. Though the work clusters may not be competitive, they’re close enough to drive innovation.

DH: You also mentioned Facebook at the IIDA event, describing how Zuckerberg was very vocal in the design process with Gehry. How does Facebook measure up in the world of companies growing so quickly when they’re the ones driving the design of their workplace?

GL: I don’t think this makes Facebook much of an outlier since I imagine Google gave NBBJ a lot of input. Facebook is evolving, hiring, and adding new functions so quickly that the company believes it must be able to spawn out a whole new product group at a moment’s notice. The result is that it’s very reluctant to conform to planted physical space. Instead, they’ll just mount work surfaces on castors so they can rearrange the space as necessary. I think this is: A. Really interesting, B. It’s similar to the urban dynamic I write about, which describes why cities work so well, and C. If I were an architect it would scare the hell out of me because they’re basically saying, “You can’t figure us out. You can’t design spaces for us that morph as quickly as we need them to, so just give us a big box.”

DH: We’ve seen sit-to-stand workstations established as a standard in Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe at a rapid pace. In the US, however, that’s been lagging. Recently, Innovant has seen a surge in requests for adjustable height desks. Do you think this notion of adapting our workplaces for health and safety reasons is a real and sustainable shift, or is it just a trend?

GL: I don’t have informed opinion on this, though I would say yes. I think it’s a real trend, which is part of the larger notion of choice and the awareness that people no longer have to sit in an uncomfortable chair at an uncomfortable desk. Instead, they’re demanding a range of motions and a range of environments for work.

As Nilofer Merchant put it, “Sitting is the smoking of our generation.” I’ll be curious to see whether this achieves the status of a crusade, though it will be hard to trace its origins since there seems to be a greater acceptance of design and choice in the US. I certainly think the desire for public space and a range of motions at one’s desk are a part of a larger trend.

DH: Based on what you know about how work is changing, how do you envision the workplace of the future?

GL: The key is that it’s not just a workplace. The workplace of the future is merged intimately with the other environments around it. You’ll have environments that exist either to put your head down and work alone, or you’ll be involved in socializing; either you’re plugged into the cloud or you’re really involved in physical space with people while executing multiple work modes at once.

The workplace of the future won’t start by walking into an elevator lobby or parking your car outside a suburban office complex and going inside to sit at a desk, where there’s nothing but desks and there’s nothing but work. I imagine the street intersecting with the building, so that the moment blurs when you walk into the office out of what today would be a coffee shop, restaurant or retail complex.

The people you’re working with are not necessarily your professional colleagues. You chose that space because it’s designed for the kind of work you want to do and it houses the kind of people you need to work with (or not work with). I imagine you won’t necessarily be choosing where and how you work based on who is paying you. Instead, you’ll base your decision on a space’s relevant functions, which will blend with the city somehow.

The word I keep coming back to is permeability. We need to break open the walls of the office to allow other elements in. This will allow the office to leak out into the city and the city to leak into the office. I think the next step is to determine exactly how that looks. We’ve begun talking about multiple environments in a workplace, but when we take that further, the discussion will be about the environments of the city and vice versa.

DH: What I find most exciting about your vision is the notion of choice –

GL: Exactly! Choice, something we don’t normally associate with going to work.

DH: Right, it’s empowering to think that someday we’ll have the choice to flow throughout the office (or even out of it) in an attempt to find the right workspace.

GL: I don’t think this change will come because employers are more enlightened, which is what we’re seeing with technology companies now. Anybody who’s involved in knowledge work knows what it takes to come up with good ideas. What makes a good working environment on paper is a diversity of opinions and backgrounds, a certain environment, and a certain mental mindset to even be able to think warm thoughts and come up with good ideas. Employers are going to give you the flexibility of choice so they can better harness your work, not because they’re warm and fuzzy. They simply want the best work from you.

DH: What will it take to convince employers that giving employees the flexibility of choice will produce the best work?

GL: Everything I’ve said so far is a mix of anecdotes and hypotheses. The real question is whether we can test any of this — what new styles of work, collaboration, and organization are emerging in cities? What kind of environments will be disrupted by these shifts?  What solo- vs. group work patterns exist, how are they evolving, and how can they be mapped, understood and enhanced? How can new ways of organizing work in cities make people more creative, productive and happy? And what are the benefits of doing so— better retention rates? Higher productivity? Greater innovation? And how do we measure any of this?

I’m putting together a team of architects, data scientists and researchers to explore some of these questions. I’ll let you know when we have some answers.

Part One: Greg Lindsay on the Future of the Workplace

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Earlier this summer, the marketing team attended an IIDANY Facilities Forum focused on the topic, “The Evolving Workplace: Change or Adapt?” Moderated by David Craig, Associate Principal at Cannon Design, the discussion featured insights on the evolving workplace and what this means for our industry from two workplace innovators, Greg Lindsay, Contributing Writer for Fast Company, and Bart Higgins, Director at ?What If!

We were particularly excited to hear from Greg as we had posted his New York Times article, “Engineering Serendipity,” on our blog. This post summarized Greg’s commentary on workplace policies by the likes of Yahoo! and Google, describing how a company can boost employee creativity and productivity by engineering social interactions.

Greg agreed to elaborate on some of his ideas for our blog, including explorations into what he calls “the blurring of the office and the city.” Read on for his insights into 21st century ways of work and places for work.

Deborah Herr: Gensler’s recent survey effectively pointed the finger at open plan environments for declining workplace effectiveness. Are you noticing a looming shift away from open plan or seeing any real trends that address these complaints?

Greg Lindsay: The open plan office is never going to go away, just like the cubicle is never going to go away. But what I find most interesting is the recognition that one size does not fit all. In the ongoing quest to squeeze every good idea and every last bit of productivity out of people, we’ve realized that working at one, generic environment for 8 or 10 hours a day is ineffective. Instead, we need to physically mode switch on a moment to moment basis to glean every last bit of efficiency out of people.

DH: Speaking of these modes, have there been any suggestions about what the “right” ratio would be for these modes? Is there a certain balance of “we” and “me” spaces that we should aim for in a single workplace?

GL: That‘s the $64 billion question. You’ve highlighted the absurdity of someone, somehow publishing research with the “right” ratio based on the number of hours we collaborate. Though it probably won’t be right, we will convince ourselves that it’s right enough.

I imagine the companies that try to do this are going to end up going in two directions. Either they’re going to oversimplify it and get an office with one really intense environment and one really collaborative one. Or, they’ll have eight different work modes in a single office. In this case, the office becomes a fantasy land of different working types, which I would imagine is good for sales, but difficult for most companies to implement. This is why I’m personally more interested in work and city relationships. This would involve encouraging people to leave the office to find different work modes and in the course of that discover something new – whether it be a new idea or new people.

Ultimately, I think the larger notion of “the office” is reaching its functional limits. The struggle to come up with new ideas, push faster and move farther has exposed us to these limitations. The innovation we strive for requires face-to-face, high bandwidth communication, but we still try to do it in an environment where you see the same people day after day. These two trends are in inevitable conflict.

DH: The idea of the office reaching its limitations would alarm a lot of people in my industry. We will have to wait and see, but I can hardly imagine the day when someone may say, “You don’t need to be sitting at your desk for me to realize that you’re being productive.”

GL: Well, it’s a question of, “What is your desk?” I don’t think the desk will ever go away. Desks will be around as long as we’re typing on a device. Instead, it becomes a question of, “What is your desk that is not your desk at your employer?” I think this question will lead us to all sorts of fascinating answers – it will be a desk at someone else’s office, or a temporary desk in a co-working space. Rather than choosing between two or seven environments in one office, you might have two or three environments in your employer’s office with multiple workspaces located across the city. It will be interesting to see how this network of workspaces evolves, which is separate from the ongoing design evolution of desks and chairs.

To me, the more interesting question of what should alarm Innovant is the notion that people find the office to be so ineffective that they’re willing to take their laptops and work in sub-optimal conditions just because they can. If people are willing to shed the productivity-enhancing elements of the office in favor of choice, we are failing them somehow. Perhaps we need to balance this by designing better environments for work outside of the designated office.

DH: You’ve mentioned technology as having a significant role in the evolving workplace. This was obvious at NeoCon 2013 where a lot of big industry players focused on technology as a way to mitigate some of the problems of open plan environments. What sorts of tools or technology do you see contributing to workplace effectiveness?

GL: One longstanding problem that people are interested in solving is the need for systems that track employees down when they’ve been encouraged to wander. I’m dubious that furniture or office equipment makers will be able to design software that can iterate fast enough or function as well as the offerings from software companies.

This is why I’m interested in the potential use of social networking or GPS tracking systems to figure out who’s nearby. At some point, I imagine that as a function of employment we’ll all have an employee badge app on our phones or we’ll wear badges that contain these functions. A recent New York Times story described retailers using smartphones to track people’s movements through their stores. Eventually, we’ll do the same for the office – or we should. Once you do that, you can perform all sorts of interesting big data analysis of who’s actually working and where. I imagine that this would be the grail for a lot of companies since the org chart is the barest approximation of who’s actually working together. Once you understand what’s really going on, you can start rearranging the office in real time. It will be interesting to see how an office manager of the future might intervene on the fabric of an office to either support employees or shake things up a bit.

Please check back for “Part Two” of this interview, which will be posted next week.

Is Your Office Making You Unproductive?

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Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal posted an article about office life, which posed the question, “Is your office making you unproductive?” The author, Rachel Emma Silverman, cited a new study performed by a global design firm that discovered collaborative environments with open plan layouts or low cubicles have “compromised workers’ ability to concentrate.”

Looking deeper into this topic, the study also found that workplaces featuring “both quiet spaces and collaborative areas… giv[ing] employees a choice of where they’d like to work” were the most effective. This mix of private and open work areas help boost productivity because employees are able to choose the appropriate work environment depending on the task at hand.

Innovant has recognized this need to mitigate the potential distractions found in open plan environments. One solution is to rely on breakout spaces for private meetings, individual work, or conferencing. To furnish these areas, Innovant has adapted the signs of both our private office products and award-winning workstations into a single, complementary line of conference products.

To answer Silverman’s question, if you’re feeling unproductive at your workstation, perhaps you need a change of workplace scenery.

In a recent  New York Times  article,  Engineering Serendipity , Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by  Yahoo  and  Google  and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.    By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees.     
 In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of  Sociometric Solutions  that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.” 
 In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

In a recent New York Times article, Engineering Serendipity, Greg Lindsay deliberates workplace policies by Yahoo and Google and describes how companies can use social media as data to plug organizational gaps.  By bridging these gaps, he says, employers are able to “engineer” serendipity (“regarded as close kin to creativity – the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world”) amidst employees. 

In addition to Lindsay’s assertion that social media is one method for helping employees serendipitously “generate good ideas,” he adds that physical space that “maximizes ‘casual collisions of the work force’” can also breed creativity. This idea is supported by the discovery of Sociometric Solutions that “employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four.” Thus, not only are companies like Yahoo banning employees from working from home as a way to bring people together, they are also housing employees in environments that encourage “chance conversations.” Lindsay explains that “we get a particular intellectual charge from sharing ideas in person.”

In the end, “the message [is] clear: doing your best work solo can’t compete with lingering around the coffee machine waiting for inspiration – in the form of [interaction with] a college – to strike.”

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The WSJ Says Goodbye to the Office Cubicle

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Say Goodbye to the Office Cubicle, Ben Kesling describes how workplace design has changed to reflect the way people now work. He states that “postcubicle offices began to crop up in earnest about a decade ago, inspired by changes in the way people worked. They feature lower walls between desks, or even no walls, and more areas designed for conversation, to encourage impromptu problem-solving sessions.”

Apart from the benefit of increasing productivity with open plan office environments, Kesling explains that benching helps “shrink [the] space and costs” of previous office plans. Other benefits of benching include “workspace flexibility” and the sense that workers are no longer “tethered to [their] workstations.”

We join the WSJ in saying farewell to the confines of the cubicle. Hello to flexible, open plan workplaces. 

Open Spaces Make for a Productive Workplace    
    In a recent  New York Times  article, “ Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks ,” author James B. Stewart recounts his colorful experience touring Google’s East Coast headquarters. His, “at times, dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias… [and] Broadway-themed conference rooms with velvet drapes…” served as an attempt to discern whether Google’s imaginative workplaces are responsible for the creativity and productivity of its employees.    
  One of Stewart’s observations about the  Google  offices particularly resonated with our team at Innovant: the open plan environment serves as the physical platform for Google’s intellectual advancements. In the article, Craig Nevill-Manning, “  a New Zealand native and Google’s engineering director in Manhattan,” explains the philosophy behind Google’s office environment.      “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.”   
  After his Google expedition, Stewart conferred with Teresa Amabile, “  a business administration professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Progress Principle,” about creativity at work.” What he learned from Amabile was that    “there’s some evidence that great physical space enhances creativity.”    She added that,  “the theory is that open spaces that are fun, where people want to be, facilitate idea exchange. I’ve watched people interact at Google and you see a cross-fertilization of ideas.”    
  Another expert, Ben Waber, “who has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and is the author of “People Analytics,” weighed in on workplace interactions.  “Google has really been out front in this field,” he said. “They’ve looked at the data to see how people are collaborating. Physical space is the biggest lever to encourage collaboration. And the data are clear that the biggest driver of performance in complex industries like software is serendipitous interaction. For this to happen, you also need to shape a community. That means if you’re stressed, there’s someone to help, to take up the slack. If you’re surrounded by friends, you’re happier, you’re more loyal, you’re more productive. Google looks at this holistically. It’s the antithesis of the old factory model, where people were just cogs in a machine.”   
  At Innovant, we understand Waber’s point that “physical space is the biggest lever to… collaboration.” For employees to thrive, employers must invest in an environment that breeds productivity and creativity. This type of investment in the workplace is sure to be an investment in the work that’s completed there.   

Open Spaces Make for a Productive Workplace

In a recent New York Times article, “Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks,” author James B. Stewart recounts his colorful experience touring Google’s East Coast headquarters. His, “at times, dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias… [and] Broadway-themed conference rooms with velvet drapes…” served as an attempt to discern whether Google’s imaginative workplaces are responsible for the creativity and productivity of its employees.

One of Stewart’s observations about the Google offices particularly resonated with our team at Innovant: the open plan environment serves as the physical platform for Google’s intellectual advancements. In the article, Craig Nevill-Manning, “a New Zealand native and Google’s engineering director in Manhattan,” explains the philosophy behind Google’s office environment. “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.”

After his Google expedition, Stewart conferred with Teresa Amabile, “a business administration professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Progress Principle,” about creativity at work.” What he learned from Amabile was that “there’s some evidence that great physical space enhances creativity.” She added that, “the theory is that open spaces that are fun, where people want to be, facilitate idea exchange. I’ve watched people interact at Google and you see a cross-fertilization of ideas.”

Another expert, Ben Waber, “who has a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and is the author of “People Analytics,” weighed in on workplace interactions. “Google has really been out front in this field,” he said. “They’ve looked at the data to see how people are collaborating. Physical space is the biggest lever to encourage collaboration. And the data are clear that the biggest driver of performance in complex industries like software is serendipitous interaction. For this to happen, you also need to shape a community. That means if you’re stressed, there’s someone to help, to take up the slack. If you’re surrounded by friends, you’re happier, you’re more loyal, you’re more productive. Google looks at this holistically. It’s the antithesis of the old factory model, where people were just cogs in a machine.”

At Innovant, we understand Waber’s point that “physical space is the biggest lever to… collaboration.” For employees to thrive, employers must invest in an environment that breeds productivity and creativity. This type of investment in the workplace is sure to be an investment in the work that’s completed there.  

Tips for Making Employees Love Their Office

Inc Magazine published this great article below– Providing basics like flexibility and organized environments can go a long way with employees. These elements help to create a happier more productive workplace.


You take your staff on kayaking trips. You order pizza for meetings. But who cares about the occasional extras if your workers aren’t delighted to be in their workspace day-in and day-out? We reviewed the best in office amenities and policies recently covered in Inc.and on Inc.com for the highlights of companies making their offices into places their employees love coming to in the morning.

1. Stay organized.
Whether it’s business plans or business cards, conference binders or marketing copy, entrepreneurs have a lot of information to track. But with so many important managerial matters on your plate, it’s hard to put a tidy workspace high on your priority list. Who knows that better than the employees who work in a disorganized or cluttered office? Their productivity and motivation can suffer when everyone’s not on the same page about where important information, tools, and supplies can be found. Laura Leist, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers, which is based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, explains: “When you’re talking about organizing your workspace you need to make a decision about what needs to be organized and there’s five areas that you can look at.” These five areas are paper, general stuff such as office supplies, your space and furniture layout, electronic information, and time management. Read more.

2. Make it comfy.
“Designing a comfortable office environment is about more than aesthetics; careful attention to design can give a boost to employee happiness. In the current economy, the focus is often on leasing office space based on price, with less attention paid to design, layout and amenities. Smart business leaders, however, think beyond the existing layout and furniture options when moving into a new office or refurbishing a space. That fresh coat of paint and new carpet your landlord gave you when you signed the lease is great, but there are other small investments of time and money that can transform your office into a more productive workspace,” writes Lois Goodell,principal and the director of interior design at CBT Architects, in an Inc.com guide on creating a productive office environment.In short, making a comfortable environment takes more than a sturdy desk and comfortable chair – it incorporates quality lighting, good ventilation, and a quality heating-and-cooling system. Read more

3. Give everyone a say.
It’s an extreme example, but when Thomas Walter, CEO of Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, encountered Jim Collins's Good to Great, he asked each of his employees to read it. Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan writes: “Tasty Catering formed two Good to Great councils, which make all strategic decisions for the company. Each council has eight charter members drawn from across the company—culinary workers, clerical staff, drivers. One council conducts business in English, the other in Spanish, which is the first language for about a third of the work force. At least one of the three owners—Walter and his two brothers—sits in with each group. The councils hold meetings a few days apart, and an outside translator produces copies of the combined minutes in both languages. Each month, two random employees are chosen to join the councils for the month.” She quotes Anna Wollin, an account executive who joined one of the councils when they were formed, who says: “It puts us all on an even playing field. I had been with the company less than a year, and my opinion was as important as an owner’s opinion.” Read more.  

4. Consider openness.
It’s not right for every team of workers, but the trend today is to support collaboration, in all its forms: mentoring, problem solving, routine communication and information sharing. Goodell writes: “To do so, create more open spaces in the office, from workspaces with low panels that make it easier to communicate to all-day cafés where employees not only eat, but also meet to work.” It’s also important to consider what happens when someone in a large open office environment needs to concentrate on a big project or lead a conference call. Open spaces only work when employees have access to areas where they can focus on a specific task. One solution is “hoteling,” offices that can be reserved or used at will when needed. These offices can be small, but should be highly functional. They should be equipped with good lighting, phone systems and technology necessary to complete critical tasks. Read more

5. Make the workplace a community.
In this year’s Top Small Company Workplaces, Leigh Buchanan interviewed Bill Witherspoon about his open-book management and leadership style at Sky Factory. His employees not only love the clear and open communication structure, but also love helping each other. Witherspoon explains why: “I think of our factory as a community, and service is the core of community. There are two kinds of service. One is: I do this for you, and I expect a return. For example, I provide good customer service, and I expect loyalty. The other kind of service is selfless. I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it. That second kind of service is powerful. When someone has a moment of free time, how wonderful if she automatically thinks, Now, what can I do to help someone else? At the start of our Friday meetings, the leader for that week tells an appreciative story about someone at the company and presents the person with $25. Often, the story involves an unselfish, unsolicited offer of help." Read more